Good Leadership Starts with Respect

good leaderThe annual Labor Day holiday weekend just ended, and the true meaning of this holiday is often lost as people now typically think of it more as a sign it’s the end of summer. The holiday was originally created to honor the Labor movement and the contributions workers have made. As a leader, it’s critical to remember the contribution of all who work for and with you – from the janitor who cleans your building all the way to your executive team.

The CEO, Entrepreneur or head of the team is the one who sets the tone for how people are treated, and it starts with respect. Employees are not a means to an end, they are part of a team that is doing or delivering something that ultimately should serve everyone involved in the process. The shareholders, the executive management team and everyone who shows up every day to trade “work” of some kind for a paycheck.

When employees feel respected, they are much more likely to report job satisfaction – assuming they are paid fairly for what they do. When they report job satisfaction, retention and productivity go up. When these two measurements go up, so do profits. When profits go up, everyone wins. Or at least within an organization that really respects its workers, they will.

Good leaders understand that it’s not about them, it’s about what the team can do together and if it weren’t for the employees, nothing would happen. When we forget that no matter what job or task is being done, the person doing it deserves respect, we start to lose the respect of those who work for us. When we lose that respect, everything else just goes downhill. It’s easy to show this sort of respect for everyone when the organization has a mission-driven culture, so they are working for something greater than themselves. While most organizations are making products and services that may not be fulfilling an enormous mission like curing cancer they are still important to the everyday quality of life for all of us. We can’t forget this.

As a leader, when was the last time you walked the four corners of your company and talked with people? Picked up the phone and called your remote workers to see how they were doing? Told someone what you appreciated about them? Listened to the stories around the breakroom? Broke bread with your team? If it’s been a while, you need to get back to these basics. It can’t be an artificially contrived “walk” that is only done when you have guests, it has to be genuine. One thing everyone is pretty good at is detecting inauthenticity in leadership. Do you really care about them or only about yourself?

Start with respect. Start by acknowledging what people do every day to make your customers happy and to get products out the door. A simple “good job” goes a long way to showing that respect. A “thank you” goes even further. And remember, everyone watches the leader.


photo credit: marcoverch Calls for respect for black America at Franklin funeral via photopin (license) (cropped)